Sunday, June 7, 2009

Adventures in the Ha'api

June 7, 2009--The last week has been a full one. On the second, we decided to leave the harbor, which was no small feat. The private boat on the mooring ball right in front of us was creating major problems. We ended up having to put a kedge anchor off the port side to keep us from swinging into the boat. We then let out the rode on the kedge as we pulled up the anchor, which was just behind the other boat. Once our anchor was up, we pulled back on the kedge rode to pull us away from the other boat and enabled us to pull up that anchor as well. We were not sorry to leave this harbor.

We traveled just a short distance to the south to anchor at Uoleva Island. Our outboard was not fixed at this point, so we stayed on board for the afternoon. The next morning Steve found the problem with the outboard and was able to fix it easily. We got our stuff together and took off to the island. We decided to walk across the island and then around the northern point. The beaches were nice white sand, and we found some good shells. We were very hot and tired when we returned to the boat so we took a quick swim and showered off. We had met Bob and Kim on sv Northern Winds in Pangai a few days earlier, and they invited us over at five o'clock for cocktails. We had a lovely evening with them and watched a spectacular sunset behind the volcano to the west.

The next day we moved to the more southern anchorage on Uoleva Island and walked along the beach. When we came upon the Serenity Beach Resort, Patty the owner invited us in for tea. Patty is a former cruiser and always makes them feel welcome. She is just getting the resort started, but it looks like a very nice place to stay in lovely little fales with a great view of the ocean. At the resort we cut through the island again and then walked around the southern tip of the island, where we found many more beautiful shells. It was another good day. We only wish that the sun would come out so that it would warm up, and we could do some snorkeling.

On the fifth we sailed about 12 miles south and west to Uiha Island. On our way past Luangahu Island, our depth sounder suddenly shallowed dramatically. Steve had been on the bow on watch for coral heads but had just come back to tell me something. He ran back up to the bow and signaled me to turn hard to starboard. Once we passed it, we continued on our course. We now have that spot charted on our GPS. We came into the northern anchorage at Uiha Village, but the current from the pass to the north was affecting the boat too much so we moved south to Felemer Village to anchor. On our way there, again the depth sounder suddenly went from 15 feet to 10 feet to 8 feet. When I saw 10 feet, I immediately slowed down and then put the boat in reverse. We backed away from the coral head but not before seeing 7 feet 6 inches--our boat draws 6 feet. We finally found a good spot to drop the anchor and get settled in.

That evening several squalls came through, but the one at three o'clock in the morning got our attention. The winds gusted to 40 knots, and the boat was heeled over about 15 degrees. It also dropped heavy rain. It brought to mind our anchor drag in Vava'u last season. I knew that the anchor had dug in well when we backed down on it, and it did hold just fine for the 30 to 45 minutes that the squall lasted, but it was still a little nerve racking.

Yesterday we went ashore at Felemer Village and then walked on a dirt road north to Uiha Village. On our way we came upon many groups of pigs some of whom were rolling in the ponds of water left from the night before. Many of these pigs were as big as small cows. I got some great pictures, which I will post as soon as I have internet again. When we got to Uiha Village we met Naomi, the school principal, and she asked us if we might have some supplies for the school. We said that we would be glad to drop some by. We then walked on to the wharf where we met John, who is the mayor of the village. He invited us to church in the morning and then to lunch. We returned to the boat by way of the beach and were pleased to find several Spider Conch shells.

Sunday morning I baked Snickerdoodle cookies, and we went ashore just before ten. The Tongan Free Church building was built in 1885, and even though it is need of repairs, it was still lovely inside. The whole service was in Tongan, but the singing is amazing (these people sing very well and very loudly), and we really enjoyed the experience. Some of the children that we had met the day before were in church with us, and they would look at us and smile throughout the service. After the service, we did not see John anywhere, but another family invited us to eat with them, so we agreed. We walked to their home and went inside. There was a small sitting room with two bedrooms off to one side. The bathroom and cooking facilities were both outside. We met Emelina the mother, who is expecting a baby in August. The older son David is 23, a younger son David (yes, two Davids) who is about 12, and the youngest son John who is 2. The older daughter Lina is 16, and the younger daughter Molay is around 6. An oldest sister is attending school in Nuku'alofa. George the father is a fisherman but was drinking kava with the men in the church so we did not have a chance to meet him. We gave them our cookies, which they absolutely loved, and we joined them for a dinner of lamb and taro leaves in butter, shellfish with onion in coconut milk and butter, and baked manioke or tapioca root. It was a wonderful meal, and we talked all through it. They had as many questions for us as we had for them, and I believe that we all benefited greatly from the experience. Emelina gave me a beautifully woven colorful talavala as a gift, and I absolutely love it. Tomorrow we will go back to visit the family and take some gifts for them.

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